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Kenny Payne doesn’t think Nick Richards got “arrogant” but also says “this ain’t the place for that” if junior needs extra love from coaches

Nick Richards (Vicky Graff Photo)


He was being touted as a potential All-American, maybe the Southeastern Conference Player of the year and even a possible NBA first-round draft pick.

Then Nick Richards got outplayed and knocked around a bit in Kentucky’s loss at Auburn Saturday. Any chance the UK junior had a bit of arrogance after going two years at UK when he was mainly criticized and now was being praised too much?

“No, I don’t think (so). Nick is not in a position to where he can come in this environment day after day –- after having success –- come here and feel good about anything,” Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said Monday.

“The time for Nick to feel good is when he leaves this program and he’s a success story. Until that time, every single day that he’s here, we’re pushing him for greatness. You played great? Great. Next day. So, I don’t personally see arrogance. Again, I see a guy that was the aggressor and he wasn’t and it set the tone for the game.”

Problem is the way Auburn’s Austin Wiley bothered him is exactly what he will be facing Tuesday night against Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry, an even more talented overall player than Wiley and just as big and physical.

“He understood. He remembers. He knows. He understands why there are days when he’s done so well and everyone’s giving him credit and love and admiration for how far he came and he’s wanting that from us –- from Coach (John Calipari), from myself, from (Tony) Barbee, from Joel (Justus),” Payne said.

“Well, we can’t give him that. We can’t allow him to ever relax because we have a thin margin, very thin. We’re not an overpowered, most talented team in the SEC. We’re not the most talented team in the country. We have really good players and we got to play really well to win, and each guy, especially Nick, has to bring that part to the table.”

Richards was far from his best when UK lost to Utah and Ohio State in Las Vegas before Christmas. After that he was sensational until the Auburn game. Payne isn’t sure there is anything magical about what Richards did after Las Vegas to draw on now.

“I don’t think there’s a rhyme or reason to it. I just think it’s game to game, moment to moment, second to second. If Nick comes out with the mentality that, ‘I’m playing well tonight, I’m going to fight you, I’m going to rebound, I’m going to make strong moves around the basket, I’m going to post up hard, I’m going to move my feet on defense with my hands up, I’m going to contest and block shots,’ then he is going to play well,” Payne said.

“If he decides, ‘I don’t know, I don’t quite feel like I can move my feet or fight you in the post or I’m standing straight up,’ the other guy is going to win the battle. It’s really that simple.”

So does Richards need some positive reinforcement, a few pats on the back?

“This ain’t the place for that. Not with me. Not with Coach. Look, we love them, we cherish them, we hug them and kiss them. But at the end of the day, when you step on that wood, your job is to fight,” Payne said.

“What you did yesterday is history. What you did the game before is history. We forget about that. We go on to the next. It’s just what it is. That’s why we’ve had so many guys that have had success in this game because we don’t lay on our successes. We move on to the next (game).”


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  1. Nick Arrogant? You can hardly get a word out of the young man. Nah, can’t even believe that would even be mentioned about him after the home cooking served up at Auburn. You want to single out Nick, well then single out EJ, Sestina, Brooks, Hagans, Maxey, and Quickley too for the outcome on the plains. The only arrogance I saw came from Pearl in his pre game talk, and on the sidelines acting like a idiot. Feb 29 baby…..bring it on!

    1. By the way, if Calipari needs anything to fire up his team on the 29th, then he needs to get a copy of the video of Pearl talking to his team about UK before his team took the floor last Saturday. If you are a competitive athlete on UK’s team, that little speech would get you ready to get a little physical.

  2. Nick has come a long way and its ok if he is proud of that. The Auburn game showed that he does need to bulk up and get stronger. Wiley bullied him the entire game. That is why Nick should come back for his senior year. Bulk up over the summer and learn how to play with the strength that comes with that. It will make him a better player for the NBA as well as let him earn his degree. EJ would do well to hit the weight room too.

  3. So does Richards need some positive reinforcement, a few pats on the back?
    “This ain’t the place for that. Not with me. Not with Coach. ROFLMAO !

    I have raised 2 sons in Louisville and they are both productive members of society and neither has a criminal record not a blemish and this is what I tell them when it comes to serious stuff.

    ” If you need a hug call your momma”.

    I raised men and sometimes that means being brutally honest with them about the part they play in things that they go through. Nick will be fine IMO because he has stayed the course at UK and that doesn’t mean there won’t be setbacks but if he continues to listen and learn he will be just fine.


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